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Priorities in the Church

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Acts 6: 1-7

Dearly loved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

As a congregation, we are engaged in a revitalization process.  Our aim is to be vital, alive, and vibrant as a congregation.  This week at Council we heard an update from Wil Bootsma on his work heading up the revitalization process.  It was good to hear his take on things.

The first step for revitalization was to pull a group together to pray.  We’re really thankful for those who stepped forward to gather regularly for prayer.  We’re thankful for the whole congregation’s prayers – not just the activity of praying, but because when we pray, our attention gets focussed on God: on his guidance and direction for the church.

The main request is for God to lead and guide our congregation

·        for God to mold us and shape us,

·        for us to be able to hear his leading and calling

·        for God to breathe his life into Trinity CRC. 

As prayer group, Council, and congregation, we pray that we will be and become what God wants us to be.

We’re looking to God to build his church.  It was clear in Wil’s presentation, he has no hidden agenda.  I have no hidden agenda, nor does Council.  We are praying for God’s direction and life-giving Spirit to revitalize our congregation. 

What will God call us to be as a congregation? What types of things are among the priorities for our church?

We are looking and listening for God’s answers our prayers. 

One of the ways the Lord answers questions is through his Word.  Now, I’ve been looking at this passage for a number of weeks, but I wasn’t sure of its application, not until this week.  As I read and re-read it this week I recognized that this passage speaks of priorities in the Church of Jesus Christ.

We’re familiar with the story.  The office of deacon in the church traces its history back to these events in Acts 6.  Next week, we’ll follow this story further and read about Stephen’s trial before the Sanhedrin.

But God’s Word this morning is not just about the introduction of a new job in the church.  The events reveal the priorities the apostles had in the early church.  They faced decisions and choices about what to do, where to be active, and wondered what activities were important for the church.

It begins with a complaint.  Grecian Jews were from far away.  They were most comfortable in the Roman Empire.  They complained to the apostles against the Hebraic Jews, those born and raised in Judea or Galilee.  They noticed their widows were getting the short end of the stick in the daily distribution of food. 

How would the apostles respond?

This complaint sounds important.  It raises questions of justice and racism.  Surely the reputation of the church is at stake!  Should they drop everything and administer the food?

It’s a complaint that needs to be dealt with – no doubt about it.

So the 12 apostles call a congregational meeting.  They gathered all the disciples together. We’ve got to deal with this complaint and ensure that all those in need are cared for. 

But the apostles make a distinction.  They create a boundary for themselves.  Essentially they said: our top job, our highest priority is to administer the Word.  “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.”

But the complaint still needs to be addressed.  The ministry of food needs attention.  So here’s the Apostles’ Proposal: with congregation’s input, they selected and ordained 7 men to administer food, allowing the apostles to give their “attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

God blessed their decision.  Widows and the needy were cared for AND the ministry of the word flourished.  Because the apostles gave priority to prayer and word of God – the word of God spread.  Disciples were made; even “a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” 

I hardly need to tell you that there are many things that we could be doing as a congregation – and as believers.  There are many Christian organizations that are looking for volunteers, prayer, donations.  There are programs and activities that could have us hopping every day of the week.

The answer for revitalization – to becoming alive as a church – is not for us to do more.  Sure, there is certain exhilaration in great busyness.  We all have seasons of great busyness: when there’s a wedding or a slew of birthday celebrations, the crunch of exams and papers to be completed or graded, or the season in wholesale or retail.   

But the end result after several weeks of running non-stop is tiredness.  After months and years, you get exhausted. When you’re exhausted you’re not vibrant – you don’t feel alive. 

Most of members of our church are very busy already, some of you are tired.  There needs to be a balance between doing work in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and enjoying the rest and peace that is proclaimed in the gospel.

The Church is also meant to be a sanctuary – a safe place of rest from the idolatries of the world: including the idolatry of endless activity and hard work.  We face a temptation, particularly among men, of finding our identity in what we do.  

Pastor Derek Bouma preached here last Sunday evening.  But it was on a previous visit that he said, the key word for the church is not “do.”  The key word in Christianity is “done.”

Our purpose, our satisfaction, our identity is not wrapped up in what we can do for our God.  God has already done it all for us.  The Word of God is a book of freedom, for it tells of God’s Creation, humankind’s Fall into sin, God’s plan of Redemption, and God’s on-going work of Recreation, Renewal, and Revitalization.

Reading and discussing, absorbing and proclaiming the Word of God is central to the life of the church.  Actually, it is the life of the church.  It is the life of Christians. 

Administers at Christian schools recognize this.  I got to attend the gr. 8 and gr. 12 graduation ceremonies from Beacon this week.  I missed James Eshuis’ graduation from gr. 8 at Heritage.  At Beacon, the school gave gifts to the graduates:

·        graduates from gr. 8 received a Bible,

·        gr. 12 grads received a Bible-based devotional. 

In both ceremonies, the teachers urged the students to spend time reading God’s Word.

As individual Christians and as a congregation, life and growth are found in the Bible.  Well, more accurately, our life and growth is found in our Lord and Saviour who reveals himself through his Word.  As we read the Bible, God answers our prayers, molds and shapes us, and reminds us of what he has done and is doing for the people he loves.

See, there are so many things clamouring for our attention and time: good things; important things.  It is difficult to keep the ministry of the word a priority.  This week again I was talking with someone about how hard it is to keep a regular habit of reading the Bible, or gathering with believers for worship services, sermons, and Bible studies.

We saw it again in church attendance on Father’s Day.  It’s hard to balance family activities with gathering for a second worship service: reading and meditating on God’s Word together.  Now I don’t want you to gather for a second service out of guilt – that’s no reason to come to morning services either, for that matter.

We gather for worship, for small groups, and spend time in personal Bible study to hear God’s Word.  We want to be molded and shaped, comforted and challenged by God himself speaking to us.  It is through His Word that our Lord answers prayer and leads His Church.  A key to revitalization is making the ministry of God’s Word a priority in our congregation and in our lives. 

We start each week, each meeting, by reading and meditating on God’s Word.  Then, enlivened by that Word of God, the Church picks up her other responsibilities as well.  Strengthened and equipped by the Word of the Lord, we can practise hospitality and generosity, we can pursue justice, and we can proclaim that the Kingdom of God has come because God’s Word reveals: Jesus Christ is King!

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